Production Designer Luke Hull created a working city for Andor, the Star Wars series that airs Wednesdays on Disney+.
The show, a prequel to the 2016 film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, follows eventual rebel hero Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and introduces audiences to new locations and planets. The most ambitious of these is Ferrix, a salvage outpost on the edge of the galaxy protecting itself from Empire meddling.
The planet Cassian calls home is an arid planet that challenged Hull and showrunner Tony Gilroy to design an environment that feels different than Tatooine or Jakku, places Star Wars fans are familiar with . Hull, who won an Emmy for his work on the Chernobyl limited series, says, “We didn’t want it to fall into the trap of being a desert town, or I really wanted it not to be a frontier town. Tony was thrilled that it had a very strong cultural heart. Like you really understood that the people there came together, cared for each other, they weren’t just part of the environment.”
Eventually they decided that Ferrix should be built as a backlot set and not as a series of soundstages. “We knew we needed a big highway, and it all grew out of that,” says Hull. He estimates that 80-85% of the scenes in Ferrix were shot on the backlot, a functional space where doors and windows open onto usable buildings.
After they decided to build a city, the next step was to come up with an overall look that stayed true to “Star Wars” without feeling too dystopian. Hull says, “The interesting thing about ‘Star Wars’ is that each planet has a coherent aesthetic. It’s not like Earth in the sense that you can go to a lot of different places and they all have very different flavors.” With Ferrix’s economy being based on salvaging ship parts and metal, Hull envisioned a resilience for the place . “They felt really stoic and strong and reminded me of dockers in Belfast building ships.” The team saw the city as starting with a small outpost and gradually growing out of the hillside and expanding as the population grew.
Everything started to fall into place for Hull once they decided on the right materials. “I think the big turning point was when we thought, ‘Let’s build a city of bricks,'” he says. It was an unorthodox decision, one never before made in the Star Wars universe, but one that created a layer of history for the place. “I didn’t want to change the color of the brick because I felt the tone and earthiness really contributed to who Ferrixians are,” explains Hull. “And then this idea, which we kind of retrofitted: if you die, your ashes will be baked into a brick and you’ll be taken to town. It has this really beautiful, poetic accomplishment.”
“Star Wars” wouldn’t be what it is without some computer graphics and VFX that Hull and his team took into account in their planning, though he’s proud to say that so much of what you see is practical for “Andor.” “It’s a very real show in that it’s a very set-heavy show, which I personally find interesting,” he says. “Or it’s location specific.” Several episodes and even portions of Ferrix were filmed on nearby locations. He continues, “I mean, there’s a lot of VFX, don’t get me wrong. But much of this was thankfully discussed in advance and also built into the design. You know what you’re working towards. We understood the geography of the wider planet and how our built sets fit into it.”
It wouldn’t be a “Star Wars” series without a few Easter eggs, though Hull was determined to keep things subtle. A frozen carbonite machine in a corner or a bantha stuffed animal on a shelf are among the fun surprises that occasionally creep in. Hull notes, “It’s about finding a way that fits into the show.”
https://variety.com/2022/artisans/news/andor-ferrix-production-backlost-sound-stage-1235393854/ ‘Andor’: How Ferrix was built on a site, not a sound stage